Introduction to Writing Essays

What you’ll learn to do: examine characteristics of common essay assignments

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High school writing often emphasizes formulaic structure, such as the five-paragraph theme or the three-point essay. Those structures are appropriate as an introduction to academic writing because they teach writers to make a point and use evidence to support it in an organized way. Those structures are especially useful when responding to standardized tests under time pressure.

In college, though, you’ll be writing in a wide variety of disciplines for many different purposes. You’ll need to move beyond formulaic structures and learn how to develop and organize your ideas more organically. Even when you organize your ideas organically, however, you can follow common rhetorical patterns. For example, essays that ask you to compare or contrast two ideas are often formatted following a consistent pattern. Similarly, narrative essays, argumentative essays, or process essays are often structured in similar ways. In this module, you’ll learn about some of these main rhetorical structures.